Defending region champs Southwestern eliminated

STEVE CORNELIUS I CJ

Southwestern High School junior Leah Hollis (left) and Emmie Vanover defend the net in the Lady Warriors' dramatic 3-2 loss to West Jessamine High School in the 12th Region Tournament semifinal game on Wednesday in the Wigwam.

Two perennial 12th Region powers took the court against each other in the second semi-final game of the 12th Region Tournament on Wednesday evening as the West Jessamine Colts (24-14) faced the defending region champion Southwestern Lady Warriors (29-9).

The two teams faced each other earlier in the season in the Kentucky Challenge Tournament on Sept. 28 with the Lady Warriors picking up the victory. A match that was certain to be a war from beginning to end did not disappoint and became an instant classic.

When it was over the West Jessamine Colts got the big win and advanced to face the Pulaski County Lady Maroons Thursday, Oct. 31, for the right to represent the 12th region in the State Tournament at Valley High School in Louisville next week.

“We knew going into this match that West Jessamine would be one of the toughest competitors we would face all season,” Southwestern High School volleyball caoch Melissa Gaunce stated. “Our team has had an amazing season. I am so proud of all they’ve accomplished.”

Southwestern jumped out to the early lead in the first set as Maddy Foster had two aces and Emmy Vanover had a kill and a block and the score was 5-0. The Lady Warriors maintained around a five point lead for the rest of the set, led by six kills by Vanover and three kills by Grace Taylor and took the first set by a score of 25-19.

The second set was exactly the opposite for the Lady Warriors as West Jessamine used a powerful offense with kills to take and 8-3 lead early, forcing a timeout by Southwestern coach Melissa Gaunce. Kills by Payton Brock and Vanover pulled the Lady Warriors to within 8-5, but West Jessamine continued their stellar play and Coach Gaunce called timeout again with a 20-13 deficit. Brock and Vanover were able to get kills again, but it was not enough and the Colts gained the second set at 25-17, tying the match at one set each.

Vanover came out firing at the beginning of the third set for Southwestern, scoring on three kills and helping the Lady Warriors to an 8-3 advantage before West Jessamine called timeout in an attempt to stop the momentum. The timeout worked as West Jessamine pulled to within 8-7, and Coach Gaunce called timeout for Southwestern. Hannah Browning took her turn at serve and scored of three aces, returning the momentum to the Lady Warriors. Great defensive digs by Kami Wilson, Sydney Wilson and Katie Shaw kept balls in play and Taylor and Brock were able to capitalize with kills, leading to the 25-19 set victory for Southwestern and giving them a 2-1 lead.

It was a back and forth score early in the fourth set before West Jessamine was able to put some points together to take a 10-5 lead. The Lady Warriors fought back to a 16-14 deficit with a kill and an ace by Avery Rose and a block by Taylor. It was 20-19 West Jessamine as the Lady Warriors were continuing to apply the pressure and West called a timeout. The game continued to go back and forth with each team making great plays until a huge block by West Jessamine gave them the set by a score of 25-22, leading to a tiebreaking fifth set.

It was back and forth throughout the fifth set with three ties before West Jessamine took a 10-8 lead. Southwestern called a timeout. Vanover got a block and a kill and the Lady Warriors took a 11-10 lead, but could not hold it as the Colts came back to go up by one at 12-11. Taylor got a kill and West was unable to return a serve and the score was tied at 13. The final exciting points were all any fan could ask for, but West Jessamine was able to score two consecutive points and take the set by a score of 16-14 and the match at 3-2.

“Losses are always toughest on your seniors because they never get that last game or that last point back,” Gaunce stated. “I am so proud of my seniors this season. Sydney Wilson’s defense was stellar all season, Hanna Browning stepped up when we needed her most, and Grace Taylor did an amazing job finding ways to score for us all season long. They have been an amazing group to coach.”

Southwestern finishes their very successful season with a final record of 29-10. West Jessamine will face Pulaski County in the finals of the 12th Region Tournament at the Wigwam on Thursday, Oct. 31.

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